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Making a narcissist angry is a skill that doesn’t require much practice, but figuring out how to avoid their ridiculously overblown reaction to anything you say, think, or feel? Well, that takes some real strategy. There are plenty of documented reasons for this, but it all begins with the fact that narcissists tend to have inflated, but outrageously fragile, egos.
If you’ve ever been in a relationship with a toxic narcissist, then you already know that there are plenty of things you can say to anger a narcissist. You can even just look at them the wrong way and tick them off pretty good, right? And my guess is that you already know how easily narcissists can fly off the handle.
And, if you’re anything like I was before I healed, you’d like to avoid this as often as you can. After all, when a narcissist is enraged, they will fling insults at you, digging deep and actively poking at the things that hurt you the most. They want you to feel bad about yourself in that moment, and on some level, they are projecting their own emotions on to you. Let me explain.
The concept of narcissistic rage plays a big part here. See, narcissistic rage is what we see when a narcissist knows they’re wrong but won’t admit it, or when they don’t get what they want, or when people don’t treat them differently or more special than others. It can also happen when a narcissist’s sense of entitlement is threatened – and basically, anytime things don’t go their way. They get inconsolably angry in an attempt to bully or coerce you into giving them what they want. And, when this doesn’t work well enough, they’ll often switch to a similar tactic where they slip into victim mode. We’ll talk more about that part later.
You might also be aware that your average narcissist is far from rational, especially when they feel insulted, belittled, minimized or in any way attacked. This can feel pretty ironic, given that they actively insult, belittle, minimize and attack the people closest to them.
In any case, though, if you’re dealing with a narcissist, you probably want to avoid saying the things that are guaranteed to upset them, at least if you want to avoid the drama and upset that goes along with making a narcissist angry.
7 Things You Can Say To Trigger a Narcissist’s Anger
1. “I am so impressed with that skill someone other than you has that you also have…”
Complimenting someone else on a skill or talent that the narcissist is going to go over like a lead balloon, especially when you do so without also acknowledging the narcissist’s own talent. And heaven forbid you should do so without somehow implying that the other person’s skill is in any way superior to the narcissist’s (or that it isn’t actually inferior if we’re being honest). Narcissists are insanely jealous by nature because of the fact that they are so insecure. So, if you were to ever compliment someone else for having such talent in something that the narcissist also has, that not only makes them angry but also makes them feel as though you have personally and directly insulted them. No kidding. Even if what you say is benign and you are not comparing them to the person you are talking about in any way. Narcissists have to believe they are the best and the very best at what they do, even if there is obvious and documented evidence to the contrary.
2. “The food at the restaurant you chose just isn’t for me…can we try something else next time?”
You can never tell a narcissist you don’t like or want something THEY like or want. I remember this exact situation with my ex. He would literally get offended when I would not enjoy the same food or movies or whatever that he did. I’d always think to myself,
“Geez, it’s not like you MADE the food or the movie or whatever.” But like all narcissists, he took everything personally. And that’s the thing. Narcissists need you to agree with everything they say, think and feel, and if you don’t, you’re wrong and also doing something they see as offensive. The narcissist expects you to follow their path no matter what – or at least the path they’ve laid out for you. If you say you don’t want to do something they want you to do, or you don’t like something that they like – that will definitely make them mad. Why? Because narcissists need to be in control, which means they expect you to want and like the same things that they do. Otherwise, you can expect a bunch of illogical and overblown narcissistic rage.
3. “I need to go to the doctor or the salon, or I need to take my medicine, or I need to do anything at all that involves self-care.”
Narcissists do not see you as an actual person. Rather, you’re an extension of them, as far as they’re concerned. That’s why, if you express to a narcissist that you are in dire need of self-care, and it goes against their plans and wishes, you can expect the narcissistic rage to show its ugly face. If they haven’t decided that you need whatever form of self-care you’re talking about, they’ll see it as selfish and unnecessary. The only time they might NOT behave this way, in this case, is if showing some kind of humanity might benefit them – as in they have something else to do during that time or they are going to get some benefit out of being nice to you at this moment. It’s never about YOU, but always about them – and since they have no empathy whatsoever, they don’t care if you need a break or time to yourself. All they care about is that they are not going to have the narcissistic supply they need if you were to take care of yourself at a given time. How dare you have needs when they need you, right?
4. “So, my friends and I are going to hang out … or my friends are going to come over…”
The narcissist does not want you to see your friends, and if you attempt to do so, you can fully expect that they’ll drop some rage on you. Why should this be the case? Well, it all goes back to the narcissist needing to be in control of you. That, and the fact that if you are seeing your friends, two things might happen – one, you might actually have some emotional support that could result in your getting stronger and therefore more able to see that they’re actively psychologically manipulating and abusing you – and two, you might not be there if they happen to want or need something fro you. And if you have the nerve to tell the narcissist that you want to see your friends or family without them? They expect you to be there for them, and only them as you are not allowed to have time in your schedule, space in your life, or energy for anyone else.
5. “It’s not all about you, you know.”
Because of course it always IS all about the narcissist, right? It’s almost funny when you think about how self-centered a narcissist can be. But when we are talking about the toxic type of narcissist who is prone to psychological abuse, it’s less funny and more alarming. Telling a narcissist that it’s not all about them is just like saying to them that they absolutely do not matter. For example, let’s say it’s your wedding day. Your best man or maid of honor is your best friend, and your narcissistic mother has a problem with this person for some reason (probably because they take away from the narcissistic supply you give your mother if we’re being honest, but anyhoo…). For weeks, your mother has complained that you won’t remove this person from your wedding party. She doesn’t even think they should be invited to your wedding. After all, why would you do that to HER? Doesn’t she matter? She guilt trips you and says things like, “Oye, you’re killing your mother!” Normally, you’d totally cave, just to shut her up. But gosh darn it, you think, this is my WEDDING day, and I want my best friend with me! And now, on the big day, your mother texts you that she’s not going to make it to your wedding since you obviously think your friend is more important than she is. Oh, and since your BFF is so important, she adds, you can have them pay for the part of the wedding your mother promised to pay for.
6. “Wow, you’re really playing the victim here…”
Ever try to call out a narcissist on the victim act? If you have, then you know exactly what to expect: they will absolutely act as though you’ve just pooped in their cheerios. In other words, they’ll ramp up the narcissistic injury factor. See, when a narcissist gets upset, hurt, or offended about being treated like a normal person, or when they don’t get special treatment or favors, or literally anytime they don’t get what they want – they default to the victim mode. Often, this tactic is used in combination with narcissistic rage to get what they want from you. In the case of calling them out and pointing out this tactic, you can expect them to make you feel so bad about yourself that you’ll be begging them to accept your apology – and while you’d be considered the victim of psychological abuse in this situation by any logical person who knew the whole story the narcissist will use this as a way to tell everyone how much you have hurt THEM – and the worst part is that you might even believe them if they’ve gotten good enough at reading you and pushing your buttons by this point in the relationship.
7. “Have you considered changing this about yourself?” or “Could you maybe try it this way instead?”
Basically, anytime you have the nerve to criticize a narcissist, you’re playing with fire. As you know, narcissists are incredibly insecure and because of his, they cannot and will not accept criticism in any way at all – not even constructive criticism. Even if you were gentle about it. EVEN IF THEY ASK YOU FOR IT! For example, if they’ve written a speech for work and ask you to listen to it before they present it. “Give me your honest thoughts,” they’ll say. “I promise, I won’t get mad. I just want you to tell me the truth!” But if you say anything other than, “OMG, that was so perfect! You should change nothing!” You’re in trouble. The way the narcissist sees it, you are still knocking them down. And if the speech doesn’t get them plenty of kudos at work the next day, watch out! Then they will blame you for NOT sharing whatever it was that they feel they didn’t do right. It’s sort of a double-bind situation if you think about it. Another example: Let’s say you don’t like the soup they made. They’ll expectantly watch you take the first bite and say, “So, what do you think?” If you tell them that the soup is a bit bland and needs more seasoning, you might as well have spit it back in their face – they’re going to be offended and react accordingly. They’ll either tell you that your taste buds are broken, or that you’re just plain stupid (or something of that nature) – or they’ll see it as an attack on their very soul. So what does this mean? Sadly, it means you have to lie to a narcissist sometimes in order to avoid rage.
To say a narcissist is crazy-making is to say the very, very least. What it all comes down to is that saying these kinds of things that you say to a narcissist will absolutely trigger their insecurities – which is exactly why they get angry so easily. And since they have the emotional capacity of a toddler, you can expect them to react in kind. Ultimately, what it means is that you must always censor yourself with a narcissist if you want to avoid their anger. You cannot express your needs, wants, and opinions without facing the consequences – so consider this the next time you have to deal with one of these toxic people.
Now, if you’re interested in knowing more about things you can say to anger or upset a narcissist, check out this post about things you can say to destroy a narcissist.
Question Of The Day: Did you recognize any of the statements I listed today as things that would anger the narcissist in your life? And what would you add to my list? Share your thoughts, share your ideas, share your experiences in the comments section below this video, and let’s talk about it.
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Angela Atkinson is a certified trauma counselor and the author of more than 20 books on narcissism, narcissistic abuse recovery, and related topics. A recognized expert on narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder who has studied and written extensively on narcissistic personality disorder and narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships since 2006, she has a popular narcissistic abuse recovery YouTube channel. Atkinson was inspired to begin her work as a result of having survived toxic relationships of her own.
Atkinson offers trauma-informed narcissistic abuse recovery coaching and has certifications in trauma counseling, life coaching, level 2 therapeutic model, CBT coaching, integrative wellness coaching, and NLP. She is a certified trauma support coach and certified family trauma professional. She also has a professional PTSD counseling certification. Her mission is to help those who have experienced the emotional and mental devastation that comes with narcissistic abuse in these incredibly toxic relationships to (re)discover their true selves, stop the gaslighting and manipulation, and move forward into their genuine desires – into a life that is exactly what they choose for themselves.
Along with her solution-focused life coaching experience, Atkinson’s previous career in journalism and research helps her to offer both accurate and understandable information for survivors of abuse in a simple-to-understand way that helps to increase awareness in the narcissistic abuse recovery community. Atkinson founded QueenBeeing.com Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support, the SPANily Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups and the Life Makeover Academy.
She offers individual and group coaching for victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse at NarcissisticAbuseRecovery.Online.